Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Nepal.

Lahachowk, Nepal: Trekking and Exploring after our Volunteer Experience

Posted in Nepal on December 16, 2010

After taking our leave of our friends at Lahachowk, we spent a day at Pokhara getting some shopping done and preparing for the trek. Because some of our group had already been trekking before working at the village there would only be 3 of us up the mountains this week. Lucy had started her trek a day earlier so that she could spend a full week on the trail. So, early on the 21st Brad and I hopped into a taxi and, with Navin as Guide and Chit as Porter, headed up the road for the trail-heads leading into the Annapurna Range. After about two hours' drive, we got out of the taxi near the village of Birethanti, the place where almost everyone must start their treks, even those high-altitude climbers heading up to Annapurna's tallest peaks.
Our trek was more modest - a planned 5-day effort that would get us up as high as about 3,190m (~10,500'). On the initial half-day, I was very impressed by the sheer number of trekkers we met coming out of the mountains, at the tail-end of their respective travels. We passed by hundreds and I cannot imagine what it must be like in the height of the trekking season. For the morning, the trail was quite sedate and I thought, "Hey, this is a snap. Annapurna next!". Then, after lunch at Tikhedhungga, the trail went vertical. We climbed forever (the map quoted 3,280 steps - and I believe every one of them), or at least a couple of hours, up to our first over-night stop at Ulleri. The elevation difference was only just over 400m (1,375'), but my legs thought it was a trifle more. I guessed that my pack only weighed about 30 lbs., so I have no idea how some of the porters we saw made it up the hills with at least 100 lbs on their backs.
The guest house at Ulleri was comfortable and, after a pleasant supper, we hit the hay for a good night's rest. The following day was easier and we made our destination, Ghorepani, by noon. We had started yesterday morning at Birethanti at an elevation of 1,050m and had made Ghorepani, elevation 2,860m, by mid-day the following day. That's an elevation difference of over 1,800m (`6,000') in about 6 hours total hiking, so I thought that we weren't actually doing too badly for a pair of old goats (speaking for myself, at least).
Ghorepani is near the famous "Poon Hill" - a must-see spot for trekkers in this area. From Poon Hill (el. 3,193m) it's possible to get a lovely panorama of the Annapurna peaks and the idea is to get up early to climb the hill and watch the sunrise on the peaks. Of course, it helps to have nice weather when one does this. So, next morning at 5am, Navin knocks on our door and up we get to make the 330m (1,100') vertical climb for the view. In the cold. Before breakfast. Before coffee, even! And although it was very dark, I knew that it was not an auspicious sign when it began to snow. Nevertheless, it was interesting, if surreal, to join several hundred other of the faithful, most with headlamps on, mostly in single file, trudging up through the snow flakes to see the sunrise. Well, at least there was an enterprising Nepali couple at the top of Poon Hill ready and waiting to sell us cups of warm, delicious coffee. Oh, yes - we did see a narrow band of pink below solid overcast before heading back down for breakfast in what had by now turned to rain.
So, onwards to the next destination village of Tadapani where we arrived for a late lunch and plenty of time to try to keep warm in the unheated guest house. Supper was very convivial with trekkers from all over the world all sitting around a communal dining table, talking and eating supper. And trying to keep warm. Did I mention that it was quite cold at Tadapani? Coldest part of the trip.
Next morning, we had an early, but pleasant surprise. Navin again knocked on our door, this time at 3am, saying, "View! View!". And view there was. The clouds had cleared and Annapurna South stood there in all her majesty, her lofty snow-covered crown glowing in the light of a full moon. That was a sight to remember and one well worth getting up at 3am for!
That day was the best for weather and all during the down-hill traverse we were treated to beautiful views of the Annapurna peaks, Machhapuchhre ("Fishtail") and other peaks in the vicinity. Our next stopping place was Syauli Bazar where we planned to meet up with Lucy as she made her way down from Annapurna Base Camp or ABC as it is commonly referred to locally. As we made our way down the mountain into the lower elevations, the trail increasingly became more surrounded by almost jungle-like vegetation. We were even treated to a scene of a group of monkeys scampering about in the trees - not expected by me, for sure!
Lucy was waiting for us at Syauli Bazar, just as planned and entertained us with her accounts of her trek up to ABC. She was as high as 4,130m (just over 13,500') and said that she had begun to appreciate the effects of higher altitudes. We enjoyed a fine supper together and made ready for our final day on the mountains.
The last leg down from Syauli Bazar to Birethanti seemed to go by very quickly and almost before I knew it, we were back where we began our trek. Navin had ordered us a large van for a taxi which arrived, almost on time, and before long we were heading back to Pokhara.
It was with some sadness that we bid farewell to Navin and Chit when we dropped them off to make their way back home to Lahachowk. Both had been most helpful on the trek and good company and I very much hope to repeat the excursion in the near future.

There's not too much to tell after that - within 24 hours we were on a plane to Kathmandu. Once there, we took a taxi over the ancient city of Bhaktapur where we met up with Jen. The next day we spent walking around the old city and taking in the picturesque pagodas and temples. It's a very pleasant and worthwhile end to any visit to Nepal and I highly recommend it.
Looking back, it's hard to imagine all that we had done in three weeks. I know that I will return and I hope it will not be too long in the future. With luck, it will be for a return trip to Lahachowk to work on the irrigation canals and another date with Annapurna.

Ralph Bullis
DWC Team Leader
Nepal 2011

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